ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Smallville’ Episode 4.8: Spell
Love it or hate it, the "Smallville" TV show has been one of the most popular mass media adaptations of a comic, reaching millions of viewers each week with stories of what Clark Kent's life was like before he became Superman. Now, we're marking its passing by having ComicsAlliance's Chris Sims and David Uzumeri, two guys who have never actually watched the show, watch and review every single episode of the tenth and final season.
David: Welcome back to Smallvillains Classic with a look at Season Four, Episode Eight: "Spell." Unfortunately, despite how well it would have fit, they did not use this as an excuse to include Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "I Put A Spell On You." Thankfully, they did not use it as an excuse to include the Marilyn Manson cover, either. Basically, this episode is Smallville meets Charmed.
Chris: When we asked around for episodes we should be covering on the off weeks, this one got suggested more than anything else. Which is crazy, because people were saying "Lana, Lois and Chloe get possessed by the spirits of 16th Century witches" like it doesn't sound like the most awesome thing ever.
David: This was the worst, and most entertaining, episode of Smallville I've yet seen.
Chris: I can't believe you can describe this as "worst" anything. This thing was amazing.David: From what I can gather, the majority of season four was like this, and the references to whatever was happening in the ongoing series during this episode are so totally absurd I must admit I'm curious to find out what all this is about.
Chris: On the Grand Scale of Kinda Crappy Sci Fi/Fantasy TV Show Episodes About Reincarnation, this one ranks just under the episode of Xena where she came back as a South Carolinian college professor so that she could fight Nazis in World War II. But only just.
David: Absolutely nobody involved here has any pretentions of this being high art, middle art, or even low art. I can't remember the last time I saw something so utterly shameless. Also, dear Lord, Kristin Kreuk is a black hole of acting ability.
David: Alright, so we start out in France circa 1604, where a coven of witches is being burned at the stake, including Countess Thoreau (who was apparently a known quantity in this show before this) who's played by Kristin Kreuk. Apparently, this season was all about the search for some Stones of Power, of which there are three -- I assume after Clark collects these, he travels to Krypton and is forced to collect eight ice crystals before fighting Doomsday and shooting him with the Silver Arrow.
Chris: Wait, there were actual episodes about 17th Century Witches before this one?!
David: No, but Thoreau was part of this entire STONES OF POWER plot. I mean, I assume we actually saw Lana in France when she touched the tomb and blacked out or whatever, which she claims to have later.
Chris: It is completely insane to me that there may have been more than one episode devoted to time-lost witchcraft. Then again, considering that you and I have watched less than 10% of the show as a whole, and we've seen two episodes where Lois has been possessed, I guess it's not that out of the question.
David: The witches get burned, but not before Isobel casts this spell that uses blood and a page from a book and some other dumb plot devices to write this symbol on her skin, apparently ensuring she'll be resurrected through her descendant. Her descendant, of course, is Lana, who's hanging out with slash fiction regular and middle-age heartthrob Jensen "Jason Todd" Ackles, who's playing some dude who I guess is Lana's boyfriend.
David: In this time period, Lana relates being in France, touching the tomb of Thoreau, and blacking out for an indeterminate amount of time before waking up in a hotel with a weird tattoo. I'm going to assume that "touching the tomb" is a new French euphemism for a speedball. In which case, that's about the most normal thing we'll see in this episode.
Chris: In the cold open alone, this episode gives us Magic Spit, a Magic Tattoo, and a setup that looks less like a witch-burning and more like a RenFaire gone horribly wrong. Already, we're three steps ahead of the game here.
David: In any case, after deciding to have some fun and randomly do some incantations from the grimoire she just maxed out her credit card to buy that she KNOWS CAUSES WEIRD STUFF TO HAPPEN, she gets possessed by Isobel across time.
David: Cut to Clark hanging out outside of his barn for no good reason when Lois shows up with party decorations for Chloe's birthday, even though Clark has already refused to host the party, because Lois was apparently walking all over him even this early.
Chris: Which, again, is pretty much in line with Lois as we know her, as well as being pretty much in line with what we know about Smallville Clark, in that he doesn't ever want to do anything, up to and including having a party with his friends. But in this case, he's at least got a decent reason: There's a guy from Princeton University coming to the Kent farm to... Scout him, I guess? Academically?
David: Lois and Chloe go out to chill at Lana's, where she's using a KitchenAid and a granite countertop to create a modern-day apothecary. Unfortunately, her potion requires the hair of two virgins; after cutting off her own hair and putting it in (since she's technically in Lana's body), she tries to take Lois's and throws it out since, by obvious implication, Lois isn't a virgin. I'm still not sure what I think about this sequence, since it's kind of played off as "ha ha, Lois is a slut." And, I mean, I shouldn't be expecting complex analysis of teen sexuality on the WB, but still guys, c'mon.
Chris: You know, you guys can say that we focus on Lois's sexuality a lot in these columns and that's definitely true -- as you'll see in a minute -- but that's because on Smallville, Lois's sexuality comes up more often than Clark's superpowers. This show can't go five minutes without putting Erica Durance in a fetish costume or hooking Lois up with a Justice Leaguer, and that's when it's being restrained. And if there's one thing this particular episode is not, it's restrained.
David: It really only gets worse from here in that regard - after this, Lana tries to go get another hair from Clark since he's a virgin too, but she can't cut it since it's SUPER-HAIR.
Chris: Lana breaking her scissors on Clark's hair while trying to make a magic potion was the moment I realized this episode was the closest thing we have ever seen to just straight up putting a Silver Age Superman comic on TV. Seriously, we are basically seeing an adaptation of this...
...that was translated to television, aired on Friday night at 8 PM, and AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WATCHED IT. It's amazing.
David: It really makes you question why a Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane reboot wouldn't work. It also makes it totally appropriate that Chloe enter the DCU via Nick Spencer's Jimmy Olsen strip, since that's the closest to those classic stories we've come in the past few years. After Lana gives him an excuse involving a scrapbook, Clark just straight up gives it to her, and after finishing the potion she drops by Lex Luthor's house to make the evil monster do something utterly unthinkable. LEX'S ROAD TO VILLLAINY BEGINS HERE: Providing ALCOHOL to UNDERAGE KIDS.
Chris: Lex Luthor's path to evil begins with beasting off the Riesling.
David: I continue to be utterly mystified by why Lex, who is old enough to drink and has an awesome mansion, keeps hanging out with a bunch of high school seniors. He's got to be like 25 by now. In any case, Lex was also playing piano, and because Isobel's a bitch she curses Lex to keep playing until his hands bleed and he can't eat or drink or whatever.
Chris: Essentially, Isobel's entire plan seems to be:
- Step 1: Possess descendant.
- Step 2: Be a total bitch to everyone.
- Step 3: ???
- Step 4: Profit.
David: Lana/Isobel invites Chloe and Lois out to the woods to do some pre-drinking, and Lois is all HELL YEAH, and then they drink the wine (which has Lana's potion in it) and get possessed by Isobel's witch friends from the 1600s.
Chris: Lois is DTP, y'all. Down To Party.
David: So before they go off to find the Stones of Power and presumably also throw fireballs at orcs and set watch at camp at night, her witch buddies are like "yeah, this power stuff sucks, let's just go get laid at that party." So they decide to go to Chloe's birthday party wearing, well, the kind of witch outfit that would be classified by Halloween outfit manufacturers as "sassy."
Chris: Oh man, you're leaving out the best part. One of the witches possessing Lois is totally stoked about being in Erica Durance's body, which, let's face it, most people would be. And not only does she shout "I'm gorgeous!", she also grabs her own rack and goes "look at these!"
Chris: It's the most excited anyone on Smallville has ever been about anything.
David: Oh God how did I forget that. Honestly, Lois has JUST been introduced to this show, too. They're going just a little bit overboard in pushing her as The Wild One. Although I guess it's technically the horny 1600s witch talking, not Lois.
Chris: It's seriously hilarious for so, so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Kristen Kreuk and Allison Mack are both very attractive, but they CLEARLY brought Durance in as The Hot One.
David: Oh, absolutely. Again: shameless.
Chris: And yes: Their first thought on arriving in their hot new bodies is getting laid. This is the only thing that distinguishes it from actually being the script from a Silver Age comic, but it somehow makes it even better.
David: Or painfully juvenile in a non-charming way, depending on your point of view.
Chris: You are no fun, Uzi. No fun at all.
David: Chloe's party is totally boring, though, so they use magic to turn it into a full-fledged country kegger, leading to multiple angles of Clark, in boxers, grinding up on Sassy Lana on a staircase. He looks completely ridiculous, like he just drove with the Alpha Omega Phi boys to Ft. Lauderdale, got smashed and ended up on MTV's The Grind. Or, for you MuchMusic watchers, Electric Circus. The Princeton Dude -- who turns out to be Rorschach's psychologist from Watchmen! -- shows up and is shocked and mortified by Clark's booty-undulating behavior.
Chris: It is every Square Adult reaction from every teen movie ever, but it involves Tom Welling attempting to shake it like a polaroid picture, making it even funnier.
David: They could have just used scenes from PCU and Animal House, honestly. They didn't even have to cast Mr. Jacobson.
Chris: I am legitimately surprised that we didn't get someone throwing a keg out of the hayloft while "Louie Louie" played. I'm not even joking.
David: We don't see the rest of the party, but presumably it was complete bacchanalia -- Clark wakes up in what looks to be the result of a war zone, although he has a leg up on the rest of us when it comes to cleaning up a party while his parents are out of town due to, you know, being Superman. Or at least a really lame version of him.
Clark goes on the "damn, what the hell did I do last night?" tour. First stop, Lex's place, where he sees that Lex is all enchanted and playing the piano while looking totally dehydrated. After helping Lex, he goes after Isobel, who's beating up on Lana's boyfriend. When he gets to Lana's place, Isobel's left, but Jason (Lana's boyfriend's name) tells him that they're waiting for him at the barn. Clark arrives there, where he proceeds to deflect their magical throwing of rakes at him with his heat vision in a scene that can best be described as looking like a Sega CD game.
Chris: Have we seen Clark use his heat vision in Season 10? It seems like we have, but I can't recall, and I definitely don't remember it looking like him shooting the missiles from StarFox out of his eyes.
David: Yeah, the budget definitely seemed lower back during this season. In any case, the witches try to get him, he fights back, they run off to the Indian caves where she puts the fart machine into the fart machine to cast the spell to show the RELIC which they get into a fight and drop. This entire sequence presumably tied into the season-long storyline but was just a series of unnecessary MacGuffins as far as I could tell.
Chris: Also, the symbols in Isobel's spellbook are also on Clark's Kryptonian bric-a-brac, which -- again -- is straight up Silver Age. At this point, it makes less sense to ask "why?" than "why wouldn't it be?"
David: I hadn't hit the denouement yet! But yeah, that totally turned out to be the case -- which led to a scene where Lana turned around to her boyfriend, showed him the tattoo on the small of her back in a language she didn't understand, and asked, "what does it MEAN?" This is a joke to which the number of punchlines is infinite, and none of them are publishable on ComicsAlliance.
Chris: Did you skip the part where they stole Clark's powers?
David: Oh, I did forget about that part. The witches all sit on top of a shirtless Clark and take away his power.
Chris: Or as I like to call it, "The Best Day Of Tom Welling's Life."
David: It leads to Clark following them to these caves with these Kryptonese symbols on the walls, when they find a Stone of Power (whatever that is) that gives Clark his power back, allowing him to burn Isobel's grimoire, putting an end to this utter insanity.
Chris: Unfortunately, the episode doesn't actually end there, because if it had, it would be perfect. Instead, we get some tacked-on nonsense about the rest of the season's plot, about Lex getting someone fired and Pa Kent shaming Clark with ladies' underthings.
David: Leaving Clark having to explain to his parents why he blew his meeting with Princeton and had panties hanging around the barn, with the thoroughly probable excuse of "we were possessed by a witch." Which is a bit much even for the Kents.
Chris: The same Kents who are raising a son from space.
David: This is a good point. Once again, the Kents are dicks.
Chris: For real.
David: Really, that's almost the problem with the show -- if the Kents weren't dicks, then you wouldn't have any real friction between Clark and his parents, which would take away a ton of drama.
Chris: Yes, but then all the drama could result from, you know, Lex, whose world-conquering super-villain master plans have involved a) Running for local government, and b) getting someone fired from a job.
David: Ahem. I believe you forgot providing children -- CHILDREN! -- with the devil's agent, LIQUOR.
Chris: At this point, Lex is less of a super-villain and more Your Dad's One Weird Friend
Chris: Oh man. Pretty much everything. I absolutely loved this episode. The goofy plot that was built almost entirely around getting Durance, Kreuk and Mack to tart around in leather mini-dresses for a set piece, the kooky Silver Aginess of it all, it was all an absolute hoot. One thing that made me laugh more than anything else, though, was that this is the second episode we've seen where Clark loses his powers for some reason, and in both of them, his go-to solution is to grab a shotgun.
David: Well, he IS a farmboy, so there's no reason for Clark to have a thing against guns. I wasn't as in love with this episode as you were, although I do admit to being thoroughly entertained - but still, this was just kind of a low-rent American Pie-esque sex comedy (minus most of the sex) mashed up with, yeah, an issue of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane. I enjoyed all the stuff with Lex, but that's largely because Rosenbaum continues to be the best actor on the show. I did miss John Glover's hair.
Chris: Oh man, so did I. It would've pushed this episode over the top for me, but we didn't even get to see it blown by a fan in the intro. Also, I know you didn't like Kristen Kreuk in this episode, but I thought she was great. She chewed scenery like it was made of candy, but her over-the-top seductions and super-intense delivery of lines like "I need a lock of your hair for a scrapbook I'm making for Chloe's birthday!" just cracked me up.
David: I do want to say that I completely loved the wild kegger, as well as totally doofy dancing Clark, as well as the tired-but-true device of the shocked adult. That was thoroughly enjoyable.
David: Basically anything with Kreuk in it, as well as that really embarrassingly awful "Look at THESE!" moment with Lois. Man, I dunno, maybe I'm a prude, but that just bugged the hell out of me.
Chris: My low point: Jensen Ackles.
David: Oh hey, I totally forgot about him. He was really boring.
Chris: I know a lot of people like Supernatural, but it's another one of those shows that I've never watched. I only know he's on it because every week at the end of Smallville, he's got a little voicover advising me to stay tuned for his show, and it might be great, I have no idea. But in this, he was like cardboard, but not as entertaining.
David: I would argue Jensen Ackles's major advantage over cardboard is that you don't have to break him up and go through the trouble of putting him in a separate, usually farther away, special recycling garbage bin to get rid of him. On the other hand, Jensen Ackles does not sometimes contain pizza. Well, maybe he does, but you wouldn't want to eat it.
David: This is grade-A, USDA certified trainwreck television.
Chris: For 40 minutes, this episode made me feel like I was completely missing out on something I would've loved by not watching this show for the past ten years. Then the last bit, the part that actually had something to do with the plot of the show as a whole, made me very, very glad I'd stayed the hell away.
David: I enjoyed myself, but again, largely for the trainwreck aspect -- I imagine episodes so bad they're this good were relatively sparse, and that most of them were just plain bad.
Chris: This one, though. Witches possessing Lois, Lana and Chloe, throwing up the Devil Horns to make Clark booty dance instead of getting a college scholarship! Not only is it what the series should've been from Day One, but you can draw a direct line from this to the heights of Season 10's craziness.
David: To hell with Lucy, this is the real Missing Link.
Chris: So what's next on our scheduled tour of the first 9 seasons of Smallville?
David: Next up we have "Relic", which is the saga of Jor-El's Kryptonian rite of passage in exile on Earth, where he goes up against Lachlan Luthor. No, really.
Chris: Say what you want about us watching episodes out of order, but c'mon: It's not like they're going to make any less sense. Also, if you're going to leave the inevitable comment telling me to watch Supernatural, please phrase it in the form of a reason why Jensen Ackles is better than cardboard.